By JuliAnn Graham, CCC, Communications Coordinator, Tri-County Electric Cooperative (TCEC), Hooker-Okla.
TCEC’s leaders have always been active in the political landscape. They have often educated the cooperative’s members about legislation that may impact their service or electric bill. In late 2013, NRECA launched the Cooperative Action Network (CAN) platform asking cooperative members to visit www.Action.coop and submit comments regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed rules for coal-fired power plants. TCEC’s leadership team worked with the cooperative’s communications team to craft a campaign to engage members in the CAN grassroots efforts.
TCEC took a four-pronged approach to implement the grassroots campaign. The prongs were:
- Set a realistic goal
- Talk about the goal
- Track progress toward the goal
- Report progress regularly
- SET A REALISTIC GOAL
TCEC serves approximately 12,000 members in the Oklahoma Panhandle and surrounding areas. The leadership team set a goal of submitting 6,000 comments through CAN. Looking back, this goal may have been more ambitious than realistic. Regardless, the goal was effective.
By the end of the second comment period on Dec. 1, TCEC members had submitted 3,411 total comments regarding both EPA rules. This was 56.85 percent of the cooperative’s goal and was more than any other cooperative in Oklahoma. In fact, TCEC members submitted nearly one-third of the 10,572 comments in the state.
Although the team did not reach its goal, TCEC’s leadership considered the campaign effective because it was successful in helping CAN surpass one million total comments to the EPA. TCEC had 2,042 unique submitters who used CAN, that’s more than 17 percent of the cooperative’s membership.
2. TALK ABOUT THE GOAL
TCEC used all its communications channels all the time to urge members to take action using the Action.coop platform. The team also leveraged resources provided by NRECA to maximize the effectiveness of its communications. These included leadership columns, print ads, talking points, CAN’s mobile app, the CAN’s Action.coop website and more.
Some of the communication vehicles TCEC used to distribute the CAN’s messages included:
- Special presentations to civic groups
- Comments during safety presentations to groups like the local fire departments
- Producing a special video as part of the cooperative’s Member Matters You Tube series with CEO Jack Perkins talking about the importance of Action.coop.
- Making cards available at all meetings and events to both employees and the public
- Cards were handed out at the TCEC annual meeting
- Cards were available at the cooperative’s booth during county fairs
- Cards were available at the cooperative’s employee meetings
- Cards were inserted into the cooperative’s bills two separate times
- The ‘Cooperative Action Network’ logo was integrated into tcec.coop template so members could click through to www.action.coop from any page.
- TCEC also held a contest among its employees to see who could gather the most comment cards. This contest was so successful that it was featured in NRECA’s Electric Co-op Today on March 24, 2014, in an article titled “Service Techs Collect Hundreds of Action.coop Cards.”
3. TRACK PROGRESS TOWARD THE GOAL
TCEC’s communications team reported the number of comments members had submitted in their weekly staff meeting. The number of comments to date also went to the cooperative’s trustees as part of the monthly board report.
4. REPORT PROGRESS REGULARLY
TCEC published a monthly column by Chief Operating Office Zac Perkins in its newsletter promoting the Action.coop platform. This column regularly reported the number of comments members had submitted to date and thanked members for their submissions.
CELEBRATE SUCCESS AND PLAN FOR NEXT STEPS
At the conclusion of the second EPA comment period, TCEC distributed a leadership editorial column thanking members for participating in its grassroots efforts. It also informed them what to expect next from the EPA’s rules. TCEC will continue to encourage members to register at the www.action.coop website to stay informed about issues that may impact their electric bills.
Anyone interested in learning more about TCEC’s grassroots or communications efforts can contact JuliAnn Graham, Communications Coordinator, at 580-652-3876 or firstname.lastname@example.org